West to Foy (Fowey)


Lovely Salcombe …. I shall return

A Rocna anchor is a wonderful piece of kit; the trouble is that when it has taken hold in primordial ooze for 2 days it does not want to go when you do.  It seemed to be lodged deep in the jaws of some long buried prehistoric raptor, so tenacious was its grip as I huffed, puffed and cussed.

I eventually landed it and subsided into a soggy panting heap on the fore deck along with several kilos of ooze and most of the weed from the river.

Although it was 0845 as we slipped down river to the fuel barge, fuel there was none, for all still slept as we swept past and out into a diamond morning, giving a cheery radio check to Prawle Point NCI watch keeper.  Rounding Bolt Head with Smiley at the helm we galloped across Bigbury Bay.  I have many “Stupid Boy Pike” moments, though most will never be publicly confessed.  Today though, I shall confess, just once.  For Smiley to be able to operate, a rudder blade needs to be lowered into the water…need I go on?  Suffice to say he got the sharp end of my tongue…followed by grovelling apologies.  In return he danced beautifully, keeping A-Jay 30° to the True wind for she sails to windward like a witch if I get it right.

The land to starboard looked to me like a series of huge lazy rolling green waves, their scarred flanks lit by sun and caressed by wind and a playful sea.  The day was made more perfect when we overhauled a lovely old gaffer, though this was actually no more than a simple demonstration of the well-known superiority of the Bermudan rig to windward, rather than any special effects I was creating.


This is what it should always be like!

I wanted to enjoy the scenery today, a sailing day I had decreed, so we tacked and tacked again and were soon rounding Mew Stone Rock, East of Plymouth and thence past the gaping mouth that is Plymouth from the sea, stuffed with rows of ugly buildings like tiers of malformed teeth.  Smiley showed off by out-pointing a snotty little racer; I was secretly impressed though it would have been nice if I had done it.  Hooking West we rounded the infamous Penlee Point, scene of a terrible lifeboat disaster.

It was here I heard an amusing vignette on the VHF, which I must share.  Plummy, older male voice demands of the Coastguard; “Can you call me on VHF Channel 16…” puzzled pause; “but you ARE on Channel 16 Sir…”  I could swear I heard a “harrumph.”

Up ahead a pig ugly landing craft snuffled wetly past; far out to sea a sleek destroyer was deploying, as that’s what military units do, deploy.  Behind and a few miles out a portly Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship; now what do they do?  Pootle?  Whatever, it was pootling about and would I felt sure, be back home for tea.

Drawing deep into White Sand Bay bound for Looe, the green cliffs were scattered with ugly caravans like splattered rubbish blasted randomly onto the hillside.  The forecast talked of a Strong Wind Warning, so maybe we would have to shorten sail but right now we are enjoying 17 knots from, unfortunately, the SW; time for tea and a snack as we passed the smuggler’s cove that is Polporro.   I love some of the names one finds on the chart … for example; “Knight Errant Patch” and “Udder Rock.”

Talking of charts, the GPS is brilliant but I still use the waterproof chart mainly because the satisfaction of marking it every hour with a permanent felt pen and seeing real, sweaty, salty tiring progress unfold is immense.  It does also, of course, serve as a handy backup to GPS … I also try and recognise land marks from the chart as we sail on, a bit like playing spot the car games with the kids on a long car journey … it beats talking to myself, or Smiley, Harry or Yanni which I also enjoy.

The 25m candy striped Beacon on Gribbin Point meant even I wasn’t going to miss the Fowey entrance hidden from the East, so we motor-sailed towards it, straight into the setting sun and thence alongside the Harbour Master’s pontoon to fill the water tank.  I only mention this as it provided another little lesson – wind off pontoon and strong flood stream meant 5 tons of boat and 4 of skipper very nearly parted company.  Whilst filling the tank Mr. Swan glided over to check on progress – he was definitely real and not radio controlled, as he hissed nastily at me.  It was time for a Fray Bentos pie, after 45 mainly sailing miles.


Is it a swan or the Harbour Master?

Morning came wetly but things brightened when I discovered my cabbage, lurking under the sink in the ‘heads’, so it will be bubble & squeak tonight

JMW Boat Bubble & Squeak Recipe:

Mashed potato

Chopped garlic

Chopped cabbage (best if found late in life, lurking in the bilges)

Grated Parmesan

Chopped onion

Sliced Chorizo


Fry onion until brown whilst boiling cabbage and potato separatelyMash potato, Parmesan, garlic and cabbage together with a little milk, butter and seasoning.  Add Chorizo to the onion for a few minutes then add the mash squashing it all together and tasting regularly ….. serve with a little salad and a glass of good hair restorer J

Best cooked and consumed in a cramped galley in a small boat rolling at anchor.

Fowey is Daphne du Maurier country but from my initial observations I don’t get it; I cannot pick up her sense of romance or adventure in what is a pleasant but quiet, rather dull little backwater – but that is probably my loss.  It is a place from which china clay is still exported and to watch a large ship being reversed upstream to load up is amazing.

Upstream backwards for china clay

Upstream backwards for china clay

I have a bright yellow waterproof bag marked “GRAB BAG” in red, being the last item I should ‘grab’ as I step UP into the life-raft.  It makes an excellent ‘go ashore’ bag and thus equipped I summoned the Ferryman, as I needed to find someone to fix my outboard bracket.  The genial pipe smoking gentleman duly puttered up to my lonely mid-stream pontoon, caught site of the bag and suggested it would be unlikely we would need it during our 300 metre voyage.  I think he smoked Erinmore as he was of a certain age.

On the return journey he asked if I had found someone to fix the bracket and I replied that I had and it would be fixed on Saturday (tomorrow).  “Ahhh!” said the Ferryman, “but which Saturday?  It ‘don’t’ matter much round these parts”!!  His words ringing in my ears, I was startled 2 hours later by a very loud banging on the hull and found the boatyard manager holding a beautifully fixed outboard bracket, the modest payment for which entered no financial ledger.

After these experiences I feel a natural kindred spirit with Cornishmen, but that’s probably because like them, we ‘Guerns’ have pirates, wrecking and smuggling in our blood. Opposite my parking space lurked the crooked boathouse, which has undoubtedly witnessed much in it’s lenghthy lifetime, not all good I suspect…


The Crooked Boathouse

I had, completely unreasonably, expected rather more of Fowey, the place I chose to see out a weekend of bad weather.  So it was time to head ashore for a shower (6 minutes for £1) at the Gallants Sailing Club and lunch at the Globe, where faith was restored with the best calamari I have ever tasted; sincere thanks to the chef, Glynn Wellington J  I also found the Daphne Du Maurier shop and asked which 2 volumes I should purchase and left with Jamaica Inn and the King’s General, which will follow Beethoven (Page 142..).

The mid river Visitors’ pontoons just above Pont Pill are very susceptible to significant disturbance when there is any heavy weather from the South – the Pilot Books touch on it, but I found it much worse than described.  A sleepless night.  Time to move West, always West until we round Lands’ End; out into a rough, grey, windy morning bound for Falmouth, unlike my fellow sleepless raccoon-eyed neighbours who roared ashore in their RIB for showers and comfort – and perhaps a B&B.

Farewell Fo(we)y

Farewell Fo(we)y .. I will return, just to revisit No 4 for that Calamari

By ajay290

3 comments on “West to Foy (Fowey)

  1. Well done CMJ, you’re doing great and looks like some excellent sailing too. Enjoyed your Bubble and Swawk recipe (the ammended name signifying inclusion of seabird in place of chorizo) 😄 We have just dug out Southern Irish memorabilia from our last visit (1992) and will be thumbing through it to get in to character ready for the end of the months celebrations! Happy sailing x

  2. Good job John, keep trucking. I like the call to the coast guard … sometimes you do hear the most extraordinary things and the coast guard are always so polite and patient!

    • Hi Dom,

      I might be doing ok, but my sailing ratio is the reverse of yours! Mind you I have no yet met another boat bashing West along the South coast as the weather really has been crap!

      Haven’t done your anchor trick yet but have caught fishing net ropes around the prop.

      Take care and happy sailing


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